John O'Connor, VP, Associate Publisher, Editorial Director

Running a nursing home is tough enough without being ripped off. Yet that is exactly what is happening to many operators. In broad daylight.

Even worse, the bad guys insist they are here to help. I’m referring of course to some of the temporary help agencies out there. They have mastered a one-two punch that’s dropping many an operator to his (or her) knees.

First, some are raiding facilities to lure away staff. Nothing technically wrong with that. But then they are turning around and charging operators three or four times as much to rent the same person, or someone similarly qualified.

Other staffing agencies are content to skip the poaching part, and simply settle for charging exorbitant rates.

These practices are shameless. Worse still, they are putting the health of residents and the future of long-term care at risk.

Fortunately, this unfettered price gouging is starting to get the attention of people in a position to take corrective action.

As my colleague Kim Marselas reported recently, Pennsylvania might soon become the third state to pass legislation that puts these pirates on notice. The Keystone State’s measure would require compliance mandates for temp agencies, while also capping the rates they can demand.

In a better world, Congress would have already acted to curtail the outrageous price gouging and anti-competitive practices many temp agencies have embraced. Unfortunately, our federal lawmakers are too tribal and divided to do much more than seek reelection.

Perhaps the best we can hope for on the national front is that the Federal Trade Commission will investigate such practices, as the industry’s largest provider associations have asked them to do.

So it looks like individual states will need to do the heavy lifting required to rein in greedy temp help outlets. Well, I suppose that’s better than nothing. But even in a best-case scenario, it’s going to take a long time for that to happen across 50 states. In the meantime, many long-term care operators had better get used to routinely being robbed.

It has often been said that crime doesn’t pay. But never by anyone dealing with a temp help agency.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.